Introduction: Etching Glass With a Rotary Tool

Picture of Etching Glass With a Rotary Tool

Decided to make this tutorial about etching glass with a rotary tool. Had no idea how it would work out but I'm quite pleased with the result. Usually I work with wood so figured this would be a nice project for Beyond the Comfort Zone contest since I haven't had any experience in working with glass.

Step 1:

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You will need a printer to print out your designs which you will later trace on the glass. My friend made these in Photoshop with a 10 degree curve so they would end up straight when transferred to glass. You can just print out anything and trace it but then your lines will look a bit crooked on the glass because of the curvature.

Other stuff you need is a pair of scissors, masking tape, rotary tool and diamond tip bits. I bought my bit set for 5$ on ebay.

Step 2:

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Cut out your picture and place it in a glass. Secure it with masking tape so it doesn't move.

Step 3:

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Securely grip the glass in your hand. Grab the rotary tool like a pen and start tracing the image. Sadly I couldn't take a picture of how I'm actually holding both the glass and the tool but it should be fairly simple to understand by looking at the pics.

Step 4:

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Outlines traced and paper inside removed. You can opt to finish at this point.

Step 5:

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Filling the insides of the trace. I found that having a dark background makes it much more easy to see what you're doing.

Hope you like the tutorial and have fun etching!


M_42 made it! (author)2016-07-26

Made these today in hopes that my two sons will stop using so many drinking glasses in one day haha. Thanks!

darthwolf (author)M_422016-07-26

Hope it works, nicely done :)

Mrs Fixit (author)2016-06-27


blue LED (author)2016-06-26

Thank You, for a clear, concise instructable. Strangely enough just two days ago I was looking at a neat shaped drinking glass in a thrift store and thinking "wouldn't it be cool to put a design in that?" . Now I know how. Off to the store!

rams273 (author)2016-06-18

Thanks for a great idea

darthwolf (author)rams2732016-06-24

No problem, glad you like it!

merideth (author)2016-06-24

Nice! Great tip on adding the curve to the artwork.

darthwolf (author)merideth2016-06-24

Cheers, turned out to be a nice solution for irregularly shaped glass.

syn123 (author)2016-06-24


eagle4297 (author)2016-06-15

I have been doing this for several years now, gave each member of my congregation where I attend an etched mug with a cartoon depicting what their job was. Had fun with an older gentle man who many many years ago fell asleep under a tree while plowing wth 2 mules. Put the man plowing on one side and the man sleeping on the opposite side. They were all a great hit. Did I mention that I got cases of glass mugs from the family Dollar tree.

It don't take a genius to do this, only one with a willingness to devote time to doing something for someone else.

MYTraveler (author)2016-06-10

What does 10 degree curve mean and how do you achieve that? Is there a setting somewhere in printer software?

Nice work?

darthwolf (author)MYTraveler2016-06-10

As my friend explained it to me, there is some sort of a perspective tool in Photoshop that wraps the image into a cone. Sadly, no, there is not a setting in printer software where you could adjust that.

However, if you need Photoshop the CS2 version is legally obtainable for free from Adobe's site!

Rinner_Rabbit (author)darthwolf2016-06-14

Also, is a free online version very similar to photoshop.

Rinner_Rabbit (author)darthwolf2016-06-14

Also, is a free online version very similar to photoshop.

mordicus93 (author)darthwolf2016-06-12

Could you ask your friend where on PS did he finds the perspective tool you speak of please ?

I'll need it in order to try some too ^^

Thx in advance.

ChuckieBob58 (author)mordicus932016-06-12

I can answer that. I have CS2. Go to Edit>Transform>Perspective. I altered the image first, then did the screenshot to show you. There's no dialog box to put in 10 degrees or any such values, you have to eyeball it.

mordicus93 (author)ChuckieBob582016-06-12

And thx too ^^

darthwolf (author)mordicus932016-06-12

Friend go back to me, said it was Edit>Transform>Warp and then to
choose a style from it. He's working with CS6 though so I can't confirm
that the same thing exists in CS2; hope it helps.

mordicus93 (author)darthwolf2016-06-12

Thx :)

NihilFB (author)MYTraveler2016-06-12

You only need to adapt your starting image with such curves if the sides of the glass that you're engraving are not parallel (hence using a correction angle that matches the slant of the glass).

I usually engrave images onto cylindrical glasses or cuboid flasks - the parallel sides mean no need to adjust your template (other than scaling)!

(Nice 'ible though darthwolf!)

mordicus93 (author)NihilFB2016-06-13

True, didn't think that i could use straight glass too :D


pookiesmum (author)2016-06-12

I find using a dust mask a good idea doing glass rotary etching. (there are no splinters). I also use a magnifying light which makes it easier. Try making a bag filled with rice to hold your glass, Your glasses look great.

darthwolf (author)pookiesmum2016-06-13

Interesting idea, I'll give it a go. And thank you!

Yonatan24 (author)darthwolf2016-06-13

I think that slighly submerging the glass in water could help too.

deswiger (author)2016-06-13

Very nice, gives me some ideas but if you get a nasty email from an irate female, it is probably because I told her you promised it would work find on good china...;).... thanks for the info. Semper Fi

darthwolf (author)deswiger2016-06-13

Maybe do a few test runs on mason jars first ;)

LeonS5 (author)2016-06-12

Could you link me the set you brought to do this it looks fantastic

oky jim (author)2016-06-12

My wife has been using the inside pattern trick for a while to paint designs on glass bricks. She drills a hole in the brick, rolls up the design moictens it and inserts it into the hole. She uses a chopstick or artist's brush to unroll and place the design agaqinst the inside of the brick. It stays there for a long time, giving her enought time to finish the picture she is painting. She also prefers glass etching cream to using a rotary tool to carve a design on glass as the splinters and dust are extremely dangerous, especially if it gets into your eyes.

pookiesmum (author)oky jim2016-06-12

LOVE the glass brick trick. Etching cream is so much easier to use than diamond bits.However, etching cream has it's own dangers and glass dust is heavy so does not float nor is it abrasive in etching. Have been doing this for 12 years and never managed to produce splinters.

Lionhart2x (author)2016-06-12

What are your thoughts/concerns about the glass dust you inhale during this process? I've been advised to build or buy a safe box to work/grind any glass.

pookiesmum (author)Lionhart2x2016-06-12

The dust is surprising heavy regarding it's fineness. It does not float. A piece of cloth or paper dust mask is all you need.

darthwolf (author)Lionhart2x2016-06-12

ALWAYS wear eye protection when grinding! I would suggest using at least a piece of cloth to cover your mouth to not inhale glass dust. If you have professional protective gear even better :)

DaveV16 (author)2016-06-12

I have 4 rotary tools, Diamond Bit to;;s and a;; the other stuff, but I am in no way an artistic person. So on this I will have to pass, thanks for tutorial anyway!

pookiesmum (author)DaveV162016-06-12

You don't have to be artistic as long as you can trace. Give it a go.

Sekretmastera made it! (author)2016-06-12

I made it/ See my video

darthwolf (author)Sekretmastera2016-06-12

Is that a nail grinding tool? Looks great, nice job!!

Sekretmastera (author)darthwolf2016-06-12

Yes, this is it

beer20 (author)2016-06-10

So we do a shot for each monster we slay or every time you lose a life, I'm on board ?

BobCrozier (author)beer202016-06-12

Or a chess set when you drink when you take a piece off the board. You could use a clear spirit like vodka or white rum for the white pieces and a darker spirit like rum, whisky etc. for the dark pieces

darthwolf (author)BobCrozier2016-06-12

I played that game once and do not wish to repeat it for obvious reasons. We did use gold spice and white rum for different colors :)

darthwolf (author)beer202016-06-10

Well, with the D&D board game would have to be something in between. Like only drink from the shot glass after killing a specific monster :)

Fezder (author)2016-06-12

Nice, didn't think of using template INSIDE of glass -_-. Since bit
rotates, do you run bit along rotation direction, or against it? I'd
imagine its different in each of these, as it's it woodworking router.
And, since you use diamond tips, do you use any coolant like water to
keep heat in suitable levels? Heat can dull diamond tips suprisingly
fast, and glass is hard material. then again water+electric tools obviously isn't best combination, but dremel-like tools have aftermarket extension cords which work well if you take care of them....

darthwolf (author)Fezder2016-06-12

When I draw straight lines I go against the rotation which makes it a lot easier. When I do curved lines I go with along with the rotation.

I do wet the glass every once in a while and I also tend to have a mason jar lid filled with a bit of water and submerge the tip in it.

Fezder (author)Fezder2016-06-12

Where did that formation for text came from? Sorry :D

gettinchefywitit (author)2016-06-11

what speed do you set rotary tool to?

I have it set to very low, between 1 and 2 which would be 14.000-16.000 RPM on my Dremel.

Nishant_Nirala (author)2016-06-10

Very cool. I'll try this for sure.

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